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Is this the week? Arizona backup quarterback B.J. Denker eager for debut

B.J. Denker

B.J. Denker is hoping for his first game action at Arizona this Saturday. Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics.

In a perfect college football world for Arizona, the Wildcats will be up big in the second half Saturday against South Carolina State. Coach Rich Rodriguez will take a deep breath, finally relax and send in the second unit.

Hello, B.J. Denker.

Arizona’s backup quarterback hasn’t played in the first two games. That’s fine. Denker isn’t going to play meaningful minutes as long as senior Matt Scott is healthy. And not only has Scott been healthy, he’s been superb.

But Rodriguez needs to plan for the worst, which means he would like for Denker to dip his toes into the college football water so that the coaches begin to find out exactly what they have with this junior college transfer — just in case something happens to Scott.

This is what Rodriguez suspects he has right now with Denker:

“He can make all the throws and he’s an athletic guy,” Rodriguez said. “He might be one of the fastest guys on the team.”

Denker won the backup job in the first week of camp, having age and experience edges over true freshmen Javelle Allen and Josh Kern. Arizona hopes to redshirt both young guys, with Allen being at the ready as the third-stringer.

Denker (6-3, 177) is getting ample reps in practice, but his game-day work had been limited to being part of the group that signals in plays and/or serves as a decoy, in order to prevent opposing coaches from stealing the play calls.

“He’s ready. He’s been preparing well,” Scott said.

“Sometimes, he gets some things wrong, but he’ll come back and fix those things. That’s the good thing about B.J. He always corrects what he needs to. He’s a smart guy. He’s a hard worker in the film room. He’s answering all the questions all the time.

“Coach will be like, ‘Matt, what’s this coverage?’ and B.J. just yells out the answer really quick. He knows what he’s doing. I can’t wait to see him play.”

B.J. Denker

Denker arrived over the summer after passing for 2,319 yards and running for 420 at Cerritos College in Norwalk, Calif. He was a late addition to the recruiting class.

He wasn’t a big-time recruit out of North Torrance High School in California, and the key to his career so far has been taking a redshirt season after his freshman year at Cerritos.

“I went to a small high school and I was tiny. I had to go the JC route,” he said.

“I still was tiny. So I decided to redshirt to physically and mentally mature. It was the best decision of my life. I wouldn’t be here at the University of Arizona if I did not redshirt. That sophomore year I had was just amazing.”

Depending on your taste, Denker either has the best nickname on the team … or the worst: Vanilla Vick.

He’s left-handed like Michael Vick. He wears No. 7 like Michael Vick. He apparently can run pretty well (not like Vick, but you get the point).

“Who made that, he did?” Rodriguez said with a laugh, when asked what he thought of the Vanilla Vick nickname. “We probably have some other names for him.”

By whatever name, as long as Rodriguez calls his number Saturday, Denker will be happy.

“I give it a thought every single day,” Denker said of playing. “It’s a little more opportunity this week.”

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